When the artist is also the teacher
Niki Worth completed her visual arts diploma at TAFE Queensland several years ago and heavily immersed herself in the creative industries. Then she returned to become a teacher and pass along her knowledge to the next generation.
A move to the United States to study African American History and Hip-Hop studies at the University of North Carolina, was then followed by a move to New York City where Niki started her own clothing line (Live Art Wear). Over the next three years Niki worked as a designer, expanded her brand, embraced the inimitable culture and opportunities for personal growth, and received endless inspiration.
Now, fortunately for TAFE Queensland visual arts students, she’s back in Cairns. This time marking the assignments, instead of completing them.
“I began the Foundation Educator Program in January 2022, and I have just started teaching classes, which is really amazing. I will graduate with my Certificate IV in Training and Assessment (TAE40116) in October,” Niki said.
“What I love about this program is that TAFE Queensland thought about previous students who had completed visual arts at TAFE, and then worked as a creative, and approached them to encourage them to apply for the Foundation Educator role. It has come full circle and that feels nice,” she explained.
The Foundation Educator Program sees industry experts employed and paid as a Foundation Educator while completing their Certificate IV in Training and Assessment (TAE40116) through TAFE Queensland, fully funded if completed within 12 months. It was designed and developed by TAFE Queensland to attract passionate industry experts and convert them into the highest quality teachers and tutors, swiftly – in direct response to wide-spread recruitment challenges identified within a research paper from the National Centre for Vocational Education Research.
More specifically, as Foundation Educators progress through each stage of their training qualification, their responsibilities within the classroom increase, under the guidance of their appointed supervisor who acts as a mentor and assesses and confirms their required skills and competencies. Upon graduation participants become a teacher with TAFE Queensland.
“At the start of the program, it was a lot of shadowing the teachers and observing, and as you progress you start to build your confidence and help students on their tasks and questions. Now that I have my ‘Delivery Cluster’ finished in my training, I can teach the class, so the past few weeks I have been preparing learning resources and teaching, which has been very rewarding,” continued Niki.
“Forming a bond and connection with the students has been so special. It’s so rewarding watching them grow and learn, and I feel very lucky to be a part of that. The visual arts teaching team has also been so brilliant in nurturing and supporting me in my own learning journey. They have really helped me to not only trust in myself as an educator, but also have shown me many wonderful ways to teach and be creative in how we inspire and educate students,” Niki continued.
Niki, in addition to her TAFE Queensland studies, is studying art therapy and owns Tropica Store and Studio in Gordonvale – a concept and online boutique that sources and sells eclectic and global pieces, including African baskets to Mexican handcrafts to artworks from local artisans, plus eco-friendly gifts and homewares.
Niki is committed to continue working as a creative on her own projects, and has plans to continue teaching.
“I will continue teaching in the visual arts program at TAFE Queensland and with my own creative practice. I love the balance of doing both as with my personal business I’m exposed to (and use) current industry trends and knowledge, and I can then bring this information back into the classroom.”
Niki’s parting advice for others contemplating the Foundation Educator teaching route?
“I would 100 per cent say do it. It’s a life-changing experience and it’s an incredible way to connect your industry experience to a whole new platform, which is really rewarding. It’s a lot of work but it’s worth it because you will come out on the other side with the skills and knowledge to be a great educator.”